If you’re hosting a Superbowl party this month, you know how much work goes into the preparation process. If the stress starts to feel overwhelming, just be thankful you’re not responsible for throwing a week-long Superbowl party for all South Florida that will be scrutinized by economic, sports and pop culture analysts and historians.
That’s the weight on the shoulders of Mike Zimmer, president of the Miami Super Bowl Host Committee. After a 10-year drought, South Florida will host Superbowl LIV (54) in 2020.
“Ninety-nine percent of residents in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties won’t go to the game, so my primary goal is to bring the game to them,” Zimmer said. “We’ll hold events in their neighborhoods so they have the opportunity to celebrate with the players, NFL Hall of Famers, and team mascots. Every person in South Florida will have the opportunity to touch the Superbowl.”
Cities that want to enter the Super Bowl bid process must form a host committee to lead the presentation. After selecting Miami for Superbowl LIV, the committee – not the Miami Dolphins or any government organizations – enters a contract with the NFL and serves as the primary liaison between the league and the entire tri-county community.
Zimmer had the same position from 2008 to 2011, where he was directly responsible for overseeing and coordinating the daily operations and preparations for Super Bowl XLIV and the NFL’s Pro Bowl in 2010. That game was the 10th Miami hosted. When the ‘Big Game’ returns in 2020, it will make history for both the league and South Florida.
Although it will be the 54th Superbowl, 2020 will mark the NFL’s Centennial anniversary (dating back before the merger with the AFL). Miami will be the host city for a record-setting 11th time, breaking the current tie with New Orleans for the most ever. Both are significant milestones to add to the long sports and pop culture timelines that tie the NFL and South Florida together.
Miami played host to four of the first 10 Super Bowls, beginning in 1968 with Superbowl II. The Green Bay Packers beat the Oakland (later Los Angeles, then Oakland again, and soon-to-be Las Vegas) Raiders 33-14. That game was Vince Lombardi’s final game as the Packers’ head coach. The Superbowl trophy carries Lombardi’s name and he remains the icon that all other coaching greats like Shula, Knoll, Landry, Gibbs, Parcells, and Belichick are compared to.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys teams of the 1970s, led by quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach, clashed in Superbowl X and XIII. The Steelers won both by a total of eight points.
The San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana helped cement his own Hall of Fame legacy in 1989 by leading the game-winning drive against the Cincinnati Bengals from his own eight-yard line with just over three minutes to play. The famous Montana to John Taylor touchdown pass with only with 34 seconds left on the clock remains a staple of any Superbowl all-time highlights reel.
Speaking of great quarterbacks, Steve Young, John Elway, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees all won their first Super Bowls in Miami. Yet none of these games may be as famous as “The Guarantee” game – Superbowl III in 1969 between the Baltimore Colts and New York Jets.
Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed his team would win the game in the days leading up to Superbowl Sunday. It was a seemingly ridiculous, arrogant statement to make considering the Colts were the heavy favorite and teams from the NFL had won the previous two Super Bowls against teams from the old AFL. But Namath led his team to a 16-7 victory in a game that not only made football history but also brought the NFL into popular culture.
Namath was as much a cultural icon as a great football player, lounging poolside before the game and making public appearances in full-length fur coats. Can you imagine how large his Broadway Joe image would have become if he had access to today’s social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? He’d be bigger than the Kardashians.
Remember the famous Coca-Cola commercial that first aired during Superbowl XIII in 1979 featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mean Joe Greene tossing a little boy his jersey? The halftime show for Superbowl XXIII in 1989 was broadcast in 3-D, including the first-ever 3D TV commercial for Diet Coke.
There have been some amazing Superbowl halftime shows featuring legendary artists such as Bruce Springsteen, The Who, and Beyoncé. Yet they were all eclipsed by Prince’s performance in Miami during Superbowl XLI in 2007. There was a steady rainstorm through the first half, and the downpour threatened to ruin the halftime show. But when a Superbowl official alerted Prince he’d have to sing and play his electric guitar, Rolling Stone magazine reports Prince simply asked, “can you make it rain harder?”
It may not be possible to make the Superbowl itself any bigger than it has become. Thirty-second TV commercial spots go for millions of dollars, and celebrities from all over the world will attend the game. So Zimmer and the Miami Superbowl Host Committee are going to make the days leading up to Superbowl Sunday bigger than ever. The centerpiece of events and celebrations that will take place across Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties will be the transformation of downtown Miami into Super Bowl Park.
“We’re going to take over 43 acres across 14 city blocks stretching between Bayfront Park and Museum Park,” Zimmer said. “Superbowl Park will be on a scale never done before. We’re partnering with the NFL, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Dolphins and countless other organizations to put on exhibitions, concerts, and activities for kids. Basically, we’re turning downtown into an enormous, family friendly tailgate party.”
Although the game is three years away, Zimmer and his team are already under a time crunch. The priorities are creating the sales and marketing teams that will raise the more than $20 million dollars necessary to put on such a massive undertaking.
Estimates for the economic impact to South Florida are expected to exceed $200 million. That does not include the publicity and future tourism dollars the event will generate.
“When you consider the media exposure our communities, businesses, and tourism destinations will receive for one week, you just can’t buy that kind of publicity,” Zimmer said.
The only thing that would make it crazier for the South Florida native? The Miami Dolphins becoming the first team to play for the Superbowl trophy in its hometown.
“That would be off the chart,” Zimmer said. “We’d have the combination of the NFL’s 100th anniversary and the team’s own rich history. I’m a big Dolphins fan, so I don’t fear that scenario. I’ll take the Dolphins in the Superbowl anytime, anywhere.”
SB3Namath: Joe Namath plays Super Bowl III.
Meanjoegreene: Diet Coke commercial featuring Mean Joe Greene.
Prince; Prince playing the halftime show in the rain at Superbowl XLI.